[b-hebrew] Genesis 3:5 - and ye shall be as gods

Schmuel schmuel at nyc.rr.com
Thu Aug 17 22:38:13 EDT 2006

Hi Folks,

>Dear Steven,
>>Genesis 3:5 (KJB)
>>For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, 
>>then your eyes shall be opened, 
>>and ye shall be as gods, 
>>knowing good and evil. 

Harold Holmyard - 
>HH: I don't think the plural participle "knowing" makes a strong argumnt 
>for taking 'elohim as plural. It is plural because Adam and Eve are 
>plural. It is they who will know good and evil like God. The participle 
>"knowing," modifies the verbal phrase "you will be," which is plural. 
>Participles take their number from the word they modify. So one expects 
>the participle to be plural. 

After I posted, I noticed that Daniel Wallace actually does 
make the grammatical argument, possibly the only place
it was addressed on the web till this thread. 

Genesis 3:4-5
The serpent said to the woman,
“Surely you will not die for God knows that when you eat 
 from it your eyes will open and you will be like divine beings
 who know good and evil.”

Or perhaps “like God, knowing.” It is unclear how the plural participle translated “knowing” is functioning. On the one hand, (yodÿ’e) could be taken as a substantival participle functioning as a predicative adjective in the sentence. In this case one might translate: “You will be, like God himself, knowers of good and evil.” On the other hand, it could be taken as an attributive adjective modifying (’elohim). In this case has to be taken as a numerical plural referring to “gods,” “divine beings,” for if the one true God were the intended referent, a singular form of the participle would almost certainly appear as a modifier. Following this line of interpretation, one could translate, “You will be like divine beings who know good and evil.” The following context may favor this translation, for in 3:22 God says to an unidentified group, “Look, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” It is probable that God is addressing his heavenly court (see the note on the word “make” in 1:26), the members of which can be called “gods” or “divine beings” from the ancient Israelite perspective. (We know some of these beings as messengers or “angels.”) An examination of parallel constructions shows that a predicative understanding (“you will be, like God himself, knowers of good and evil,” cf. NIV, NRSV) is possible, but rare (see Gen 27:23, where “hairy” is predicative, complementing the verb “to be”). The statistical evidence strongly suggests that the participle is attributive, modifying “divine beings” (see Ps 31:12; Isa 1:30; 13:14; 16:2; 29:5; 58:11; Jer 14:9; 20:9; 23:9; 31:12; 48:41; 49:22; Hos 7:11; Amos 4:11). In all of these texts, where a comparative clause and accompanying adjective/participle follow a copulative (“to be”) verb, the adjective/participle is attributive after the noun in the comparative clause. 

Personally I think statistical analysis is often misused and abused in grammatical
discussions, so I don't give much weight to either Daniel's or yours, on opposite
sides of the same issue.  Grammar is full of individualistic and small group 'exceptions',
which to the unawares may look like statistical anomalies. Context is king. 

However, it sounds to my layman's mind that Daniel Wallace has done a decent
overall job of explaining the grammar, and his analysis differs widely from yours,
as you don't even consider the "attributive adjective modifying (’elohim)".
Apparently it can be considered the more natural fit. 

So I see good reason for staying with the most common historical Jewish 
and Christian Hebraist understanding. 

Steven Avery

>That is no sufficient reason for  overthrowing the meaning the word 'elohim has had in every occurrence up to this point.  'Elohim occurs an astonishing 59 times in Genesis 1-3, 
>and 51 times just through Gen 3:5. There are 61 verses between Gen 1:1 
>and 3:5, so there is close to a one-occurrence-per-verse average use of 
>'elohim. Previously it has always referred to the Creator. Adam and Eve 
>only know about the Creator God. They know that he knows good and evil 
>because he put a tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden.

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